Critical Calibration

Sept. 17, 2013
Miami utility streamlines calibration to ensure quality drinking water

About the author: Katie Turner is marketing coordinator for Beamex Inc. Turner can be reached at [email protected] or 770.951.1927.

Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) is one of the largest public utilities in the U.S. As a department of Miami-Dade County, it provides direct service to more than 420,000 customers and employs more than 2,500 workers. Miami-Dade WASD provides water and wastewater services to the unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade County, wholesale water service to 15 municipalities and wholesale wastewater service to 12 municipalities. Approximately 347 million gal per day of water are drawn from the Biscayne Aquifer for consumer use. Today, the annual operating revenue is in excess of $546 million.

Importance of Calibration

Water is everywhere in Miami-Dade County, but it must be treated before it is suitable for drinking. To the 2.3 million people living in this tropical environment, clean freshwater is a necessity without which they cannot survive.

Accurate calibration is vital to the entire operation. Flow, level, pressure, temperature, analytical and safety leak detection instrumentation all must be calibrated by plant instrument technicians. There are three crucial activities calibration accomplishes at Miami-Dade WASD: 

  • • Highest standard of water treatment maintained through optimal instrumentation performance;
  • • Quality product for consumers and safe environment for employees; and
  • • Accurate data documentation obligations to regulatory agencies.

Maintaining Quality, Reducing Risks

The department’s measurement equipment must be maintained through calibration by plant instrument technicians. This ensures the best water treatment through a quality and efficient water treatment process, with instruments functioning at optimal performance. 

Not calibrating instruments could have detrimental effects on drinking water treatment. For instance, chemical dosing levels for disinfection are adjusted based on flow measurements taken from the incoming raw water wells. The water softening process also is affected, including the pH level. Even small errors over time will affect water quality. Level instrument calibrations affect how Miami-Dade WASD manages the chemical inventory. Proper instrument calibration creates a safe environment for personnel and minimizes risks. If an instrument is not functioning properly, the equipment is unreliable and the entire process could be jeopardized. Incorrect measurements could endanger lives, putting the technicians and customers in harm’s way.

Accurate data documentation provides full traceability and accountability to federal, state and local agencies, as well as wholesale water customers. As with any drinking water treatment utility, Miami-Dade WASD reports to several government agencies that monitor effects on human health and environmental impact. For example, the South Florida Water Management District monitors how much groundwater is drawn from the Biscayne Aquifer. Miami-Dade WASD is required to calibrate all well and plant raw water flowmeters, which measure how much water is drawn from the aquifer. To minimize impact and still meet the needs of the community, limits have been applied. Miami-Dade WASD is required to submit calibration certificates and report the total amount drawn. 

A Complete Solution

Julio R. Hernandez, a plant instrument technician for Miami-Dade WASD, was in search of calibration equipment that could streamline calibration and data documentation methods while also standardizing the equipment used. He needed multifunctional, documenting and easy-to-use calibrators.

“We wanted something that organized data in a Windows Internet Explorer-type of environment,” Hernandez said. 

Today, Miami-Dade WASD utilizes MC5 multifunctional documenting calibrators and CMX Professional calibration management software, part of Beamex’s integrated calibration solution. The MC5s calibrate the most important plant instruments. CMX is integrated with Miami-Dade WASD’s maintenance management software, Infor EAM Enterprise edition, to schedule and perform maintenance and document results. 

“A maintenance management software system can record and archive work performed, but it will never be very suitable for calibration-specific tasks,” Hernandez said. The maintenance management software is designed to manage all of the other aspects of maintaining an industrial facility, but does not typically provide the in-depth tool for managing calibration. 

Overall, Miami-Dade WASD and its technicians benefit from a simplified, standardized calibration program. The combination of multifunctional documenting calibrators and calibration software has automated the entire process. The utility has experienced at least a 50% efficiency improvement in its calibration procedures. For the department, the system has formed a documenting system that can be shared on a network and provide better reporting with a standardized, secure format. The quality of calibrations has increased as errors have been minimized.

“We still have some more work to do, as our department is growing and not all plants are using it to the full extent yet. The overall experience has been positive,” Hernandez said.

Today, only one Miami-Dade WASD facility has not yet utilized the Beamex integrated calibration solution. Hernandez expects that CMX will be deployed at the last plant within the next six months, and it will be used extensively.

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About the Author

Katie Turner

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